The record amount of money contributed to Denver’s three school board elections demonstrates that although the race may lack heat, the stakes are high. The board majority could shift from reform to the pro-union faction if the two district seats elect the anti-reform candidates.
The union contributions make clear which candidates they believe will be in their camp. In general, candidates have avoided high-profile fights and name-calling this year. But, the pro-union candidates tend to resist any changes that reduce union membership (i.e., charter schools) or constrain the application of negotiated contracts.
The non-union pro-reform candidates dominate the contributions collecting 75 percent of the total, or $515,000, by early October. Major contributors are business and foundation leaders, including Bruce Benson giving $30,000 and Dan Ritchie with $78,000.
The local teachers union contributed about $50,000 directly to their two candidates. The total reported DCTA contribution as of October 18 was $88,000 of which $42,000 went to new committee for campaign fliers and mailers. Additionally, indirect contributions of $92,000 were reported by the statewide Colorado Education Association. These funds were not reported for specific races in Denver or other school districts.
It was only about a decade ago when the unions could dominate a school board election with their contributions and manpower – no longer. Although their candidates have tried to reduce the level of controversy and avoid being labeled pro-union, as the reporters said in the Watergate investigation – “follow the money.”
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